By the Numbers: Finances, Characteristics of Senior Living Community Residents

May is Older Americans Month, and thanks to emerging data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics and Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, the industry is able to formulate a portrait of the average senior living resident, including age, finances, who’s paying for their care and with what resources.

Characteristics of residential care facility residents:

By Age:

  • 54% are 85+
  • 27% are 75-84
  • 9% are 65-74
  • 11% are under 65

By age & Medicaid usage:

  • 19% of all residents are Medicaid beneficiaries
  • 56% of those under age 65 use Medicaid
  • 39% of those ages 65-74 use Medicaid
  • 16% of those ages 75-84 use Medicaid
  • 10% of those aged 85+ use Medicaid

ADLs and Chronic Conditions



Along with their monthly bill, about 13% of senior living community residents from the CRR study reported paying for additional services provided by other agencies, including caregivers/care companions/helpers; medication assistances; and personal care.

What do AL, IL, or combined IL/AL residents pay, on average?

Residents in AL an the AL portion of combined IL/AL communities paid more for their residence and services received, correlating to the higher level of services provided, according to the Center for Retirement Research:

AL: $3,741
AL portion of IL/AL: $3,655
IL: $2,442
IL of IL/AL: $2,809

Who is paying?

The vast majority of residents, at more than 84%, say they themselves are the primary payers, with some combination of current income and spending down of savings and/or assets. Less than 5% say their families are the primary payer.

Eighty-six percent are using assets and savings to pay for their housing and care for those who say their expenses are mostly covered by their current income, with 19% saying they’re getting help from family.

“Breaking down the sample by the type of community shows that, among those whose expenses are not fully covered by the current income, residents of the IL portion of IL/AL are more likely to spend down savings and assets, and less likely to rely on family, while residents of freestanding ALs show the reverse pattern,” says the CRR.

How do they pay?

“Residents in independent living and assisted living communities are mid- to high-income households who receive most of their income in annuitized forms: Social Security, pensions, and private annuities,” finds the CRR. “Investment income is also relatively common.”

Low-income individuals are also low-asset individuals, but the converse isn’t true: low-asset individuals aren’t necessarily-low income.

About 40% of IL residents in combined IL/AL communities say all their expenses are covered by their current income; another 28% say their current income covers most of their expenses.

Only 21% of AL residents report all of their expenses being covered by current income, although 26% say their current income mostly covers their expenses.

Attitudes toward value of current senior living communities

A majority of current senior living residents told the Center for Retirement Research they either “strongly agree” or “agree” that their community offers a good value; about one-third were neutral, less than 10% disagreed or strongly disagreed.

About 40% expressed “some concern” about the ability to afford the fees, with an additional 15-40% indicating “considerable concern.” AL were residents most concerned about affordability, with 70% expressing “some” or “considerable” concern.

Overwhelmingly, respondents are self-reliant and feel as though they’re getting good value for their money. But the researchers caution that since 40% did express “some concern,” and another 15-30% indicated “considerable concern” about affordability, further exploration is warranted on how these concerns relate to plans about moving out of a community.

Find out more through reading the Center for Retirement Research’s “Costs and Concerns Among Residents in Seniors Housing and Care Communities: Evidence from the Residents Financial Survey” and the National Center for Health Statistics’ data brief for “Residents Living in Residential Care Facilities: United States, 2010.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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